"We should probably carry things in," Sam murmured.
"Mmm, and build a fire. It's going to be cold tonight," Janet agreed.
"Right," Janet exhaled, falling back against the cabin door and using the arm draped around the back of Sam's neck to drag her along for the ride. They were twenty miles from anywhere and she finally felt no need to be discreet.
Luckily, neither did Sam. She pushed her hands under the edge of Janet's lightweight jean jacket, impatiently yanking her t-shirt free from her waistband to slide her hands under and up the smooth plain of her back.
Any comments to the contrary aside, the last thing on anyone's mind was unloading the car. Had she been capable of coherent thought, Sam would have been pleasantly surprised that they'd made it as far as they had without giving way to the sensual chemistry that burned between them, but now that she had, the more banal aspects of life were bound to be neglected for a while.
After a pleasant drive, they'd pulled up to the little lakeside cabin, climbed out into the fresh mountain air, shared a hug that turned into a kiss, that turned into two kisses, which was rapidly leading to...what it was leading it to.
One hand still on the key where it was caught in the doorknob, Janet blindly fumbled with the lock, finally felt it give way, and stumbled backwards into the cabin, her body still molded to Sam's like they'd been welded together. Which, considering the heat arcing between the two women, was distinctly possible. As a lover, she'd always been one to take her time, indulging in hours of soft caresses and tender foreplay, but now she just wanted the heat and feel of Sam's skin against her own. And she wanted it as quickly as humanly possible.
Clearly anything approaching slow and sweet was going to have to wait. They'd been slow and sweet with no resolution for better then a week and their bodies were having no more of it. It was time for satisfaction and anything else could wait for later.
Straight-arming the door shut with one hand, Sam slid her other hand down the length of Janet's back, falling into the welcoming heat of her body as they leaned heavily against the door, the heavy wood brace the only thing keeping them both from toppling to the floor.
"Finally," Janet groaned, her voice thick with the craving to touch and be touched, amazed that a mere week could seem like years of desire and denial. No one and nothing had ever left her feeling this raw desperation before.
"Mmm." Sam didn't think she'd ever wanted anything or anyone that much in her entire life. She'd thought the long nights spent holding this woman had prepared her for what she would feel at this moment, but it was so far past her expectations she was close to passing out. The time spent exploring Janet's mind and thoughts had deepened her respect, intensified her emotions, magnified every single feeling she had for her until she was fast learning a whole new definition to meaning of the word desire; one she'd never even guessed at before.
Lost in a passionate haze, her entire existence focused on the woman holding her, Janet willingly lost herself in the sweet sensory overload; glorying in the taste of Sam's mouth on her own, the silky texture of her hair against the fingers, the velvet slide of her skin, and the play of subtly powerful muscles. Pushing Sam's light denim jacket back off her shoulders, she ran her fingers down the length of her arms until it fell away, forgotten, then lifted her hands again, dragging them through thick blond hair for the sheer joy of it. She wanted to learn every inch of her body, then forget it all just so she had to learn it again.
The doctor whimpered softly as Sam's hands fitted to slender hips, lifting and dragging her closer, until Janet found herself suspended an inch or two above the floor, her body braced between Sam's body and the door. With a low groan, she wrapped her thighs tightly around lean hips, clinging to hard shoulders as she experienced a thrill of excitement mixed with dread that they might just overbalance and topple to the floor together.
"Bed?" Sam panted as though she'd run a marathon, her breath coming in heaving gasps.
Janet's gaze slid past her shoulder, taking in the large main room of the cabin, the rough hewn furniture covered in plastic designed to keep the dust out when it wasn't in use, then slipped on to the half open door that led to the single bedroom. "Back there," she groaned with a nod in the right direction.
Sam glanced back, momentarily debating whether she could carry Janet that far in their precarious position--she didn't want to let go of the intense contact for even as long as it would take to walk that far--only to decide she couldn't--at least not without running the risk of taking the fall that might just injure one or both of them all over again. Which was the absolute last thing she wanted to happen. She didn't think she could take another delay in their lovemaking. "Down...to walk..." she groaned, the soft sound turning to a moan of disappointment as Janet caught her meaning and uncoiled her legs, sliding down Sam's body until her feet landed lightly on the floor.
Assorted clothes were discarded along their pathway to the bedroom--Janet's jacket, shoes, and jeans, Sam's boots and socks--offering mute testimony to the heady passions running rampant through the two lovers until finally, they bumped into the end of the bed, barely pausing to drag the dust cover on the bed out of the way, before tumbling onto the mattress.
Her shirt hanging open, jeans unsnapped, Sam settled into the welcoming spread of Janet's thighs, bringing their bodies together to the soft chorus of their harsh breathing, grateful to find herself quickly wrapped in the warm embrace. It occurred to her that she was on the verge of orgasming while still almost completely dressed--like some high school kid in the back seat of a Chevy for the first time--but doing anything about it would have meant pulling back and breaking the contact that she had come to need like the very air filling her lungs. Elbows pressing into the mattress, she slanted her mouth over Janet's, lips and tongue dueling hungrily as they met in a rhythm that was purely sexual.
Groaning low in her throat, Janet caressed Sam's torso with eager hands, sliding under her shirt to fondle bare skin, lightly tracing the graceful rises and hollows, before fumbling with her shirt and bra until they were a thing of the past. "Beautiful," she breathed, pressing her head back into the mattress to stare up at the woman leaning over her, taking in the sleek, smoothly muscled lines of her body. She was amazing, in perfect condition, every muscle taut and rippling just beneath the surface of her skin, her eyes blazing with equal parts lust and caring, her mouth swollen from their kisses. Half afraid this was nothing more than an unbelievably vivid dream, Janet's hands trembled as she lifted them, shaping sensitive fingers to the soft swell of Sam's breasts while she ran her thumbs lightly around the taut peaks, grateful when the vision didn't simply disappear in a whisper of smoke and wakefulness.
Sam ducked her head, and their lips met again in open-mouthed, devouring kisses while their hands explored with total freedom while their bodies moved together, instinctively adopting an age-old rhythm of thrust and parry.
Janet pressed her hands downward, fighting with Sam's jeans to her extreme frustration. She wanted to feel her lover, glory in the sensation of skin on skin, not be blockaded by thick denim. "Dammit, Sam," she growled through the mating of their lips, "Help me...get rid of ... these blasted jeans."
A beat passed and then the blond pushed up on one hand, her eyes glazed with passion as she stared down at her lover. Afterwards, she was never quite sure how she managed the trick so quickly--possibly it was all just a product of desperation--but she somehow pushed her jeans and underwear down over her hips one-handed and kicked out of them without ever losing the magical connection with Janet's body. Then she reached down, agile fingers catching the bottom edge of the brunette's t-shirt to peel the offending garment off, followed in fast succession by her bra.
As that last piece of clothing was tossed carelessly aside, both lovers froze, eyes meeting, suddenly paralyzed by the reality of what they were doing.
Sam was the first to move, reaching down to rest her hand along the side of Janet's face, tenderly stroking her cheek with the pad of her thumb. "You are so beautiful," she breathed, awed by the luck that had brought her to this point. Who would have thought that nearly getting killed could bring about the best thing she could remember entering her life in a very long time. Then she sank down willingly as strong hands molded themselves to her ribcage.
"That's how I feel when you look at me," Janet exhaled, sounding just as stunned by the revelation as Sam. Nothing in her life had prepared her for this relationship. She'd never even guessed she could be this way with someone, so much a part of her that it felt as though she'd offered some part of her soul up in supplication, binding them together at a level that went far deeper than the physical.
Lips met as bodies instinctively fitted together, the slightest friction of flesh moving against flesh driving them to greater heights. Muscles rippling with controlled strength, Sam dragged a hand down the outside curve of Janet's hip, feeling the ripple and play of muscle before skating across the flat plain of her stomach and down. She drank in Janet's low groan as her fingers dipped into the most intimate of flesh, stroking impossibly gently, learning as she touched and explored.
After dancing a similar path down Sam's body, Janet's agile fingers slid into softness and heat as though they'd been created for that purpose alone. "I want you ... inside..." she begged, muscles straining in the mindless effort to bring them even closer. Her lover was quick to comply, the deep caress drawing a sharp gasp and a whimper of pure pleasure.
Wrapped around each other, bodies intimately joined together, their passion was a thread that stretched tighter with every passing second until the rest of the universe receded and they were the only thing left in it.
"Janet," Sam gasped, burying her face in the soft skin of her lover's throat. Her lover--Sam turned the words over in her mind, loving the feel of them almost as much as she....
She couldn't finish the thought, not quite ready for that level of commitment--or at least not quite ready to admit to that level of commitment--and then she was lost, her mind and body overwhelmed by the thick sensations raging through every nerve ending.
"...with me..." Sam gasped through their shared kiss, her hands and body gaining momentum wherever they made contact with her lover's velvet flesh.
Janet didn't have to ask what the softly spoken command meant. She already knew and could feel her body reacting to the knowledge with every beat of her heart. "Yes," she moaned, superheated flesh flowering around Sam's silken touch. Pleasure heating her veins and flaring outward, she cried out, tasting Sam's soft moans and feeling her body tremble.
It was a moment that could not come again. A first time when they were completely together, bodies twined, hearts beating in sync, breathing perfectly matched as the luxurious sensations rippled back and forth between them. It seemed to go on forever; an eternity stretching between them, balanced on a knife edge of rapture.
And then they tumbled, falling into each other as the thread gave way in a sharp flare of release that arced through oversensitive nerve endings and raced across their skin like St. Elmo's Fire.
Sam shuddered in time with every beat of her heart, achingly aware of the pulses throbbing through her body in perfect counterpoint to the woman in her arms.
Minutes passed and their bodies came down from the intense high, muscles going limp, heartrates gradually slowing to something approaching normal.
"Oh God, Janet," Sam panted, pushing up on her elbows to stare down at her lover, taking in the soft glow of her skin in the thin light.
"Yeah," the brunette exhaled, then couldn't contain a giddy laugh.
"Thatís a very silly grin," Sam commented idly as she reached out to trace Janet's upturned mouth.
Janet nipped her finger. "Donít blame me," she said without arguing. "You put it there."
Sam's lips twisted in a wicked grin as she found herself enthralled by this new side to her lover. "I did, didnít I?" she laughed, the soft sound infectious.
"Is that the sound of your ego expanding?" Janet joked and leaned up to share a languorous kiss, draping her arms around the back of Sam's neck to toy with sweat-damp blond hair.
Sam's grin widened a notch. "What, you don't think I've earned it?" She leaned down to taste a sensitive spot just below Janet's earlobe before riding her tongue down a taut chord in her throat, the salty tang of her skin filling Sam's mouth.
"Mmm, I don't know..." Janet exhaled, tipping her head back to invite more explorations, "maybe we should double check...could have just been beginner's luck."
Sam pushed up on her hands to growl mock-angrily, "Ooo, them's fightin' words."
Eyes sparkling merrily, Janet arched up to lightly nip the point of Sam's chin. "More of a friendly challenge," she husked, her tone low and inviting.
"You," Sam leaned down to press tiny kisses to swollen lips between breathily whispered words, "are ... asking ... for ... it ... Doctor..."
Blue eyes glinted with devilish highlights. "Then again," Sam drawled, doing her best to look innocent, "we really should bring things in from the car." She appeared to seriously consider the problem. "Build a fire...make a bite of dinner." She made as if to sit upright only to have Janet yank her back down.
"Major," the brunette growled, kissing Sam hungrily. "We both know you're not going anywhere." She rolled on top of Sam, catching her wrists and pinning them to the bed, taking the upper hand.
Sam peered up at her lover. "Going all macho on me?" she exhaled, her voice thick with equal parts humor and arousal. She was learning more about this woman with every passing moment, and she couldn't resist watching each new facet as it was revealed.
"Possibly." Janet studied Sam for a long moment, then a wicked grin slowly curved full lips. Finally, she leaned down to taste Sam's mouth. She kissed her lightly at first, nibbling on her lower lip, then probing deeper as her mouth opened. Sam was just as hungry for the erotic contact, and her tongue darted out, tangling with her lover's as the kiss intensified. Janet released her hold on Sam's wrist, snaking a hand down to fit delicate fingers to the underside of her ribcage. Her skin was warm silk to the touch and she could feel the steadily deepening rhythm of her lover's breathing. "I can quit now, if you really want to bring things in?" she offered dryly.
"Oh, shut up," Sam rumbled.
They were to be her last coherent words for the better part of the night.
* * * * * *
Sam Carter returned to consciousness gradually, her body pleasantly weary after hours spent coiled together with Janet, their bodies perfectly in tune as they made love until neither of them could think straight. Still half-asleep, a hint of a smile touched the blond's lips as she remembered whispered words and the taste and feel of the smaller woman's body. God, if anyone had told her a couple of weeks ago that she would wind up in that kind of maelstrom of passion with the oh-so-proper Dr. Fraiser, she'd have laughed them out of the county. Who was laughing now? Well, actually, she was. But it was a giddy, triumphant, oh-God-am-I-lucky sort of laugh. One she'd shared with her lover more than once as they explored each other, even breaking into mutual uncontrollable giggles at one point.
Sam's smile broadened a notch at the memory of lying together, both laughing so hard they could barely breathe, then just as suddenly, kissing desperately, their shared laughter just as much a match to the flame as soft caresses and silky kisses.
Aroused all over again, she rolled in bed, blindly reaching for the figure that should have been lying next to her, only to groan softly as she came up empty-handed. Sam pushed up on one hand, thrusting tousled hair out of her eyes with the other as she looked up, eyes going almost instantly to the fire now crackling merrily in the fireplace that dominated one wall. She blinked, eyes quickly adjusting to the soft orange glow illuminating the room.
"You're awake," a low voice reached her ears as a slender figure stepped between Sam and the fireplace, neatly silhouetted by the dancing flames.
Sam couldn't have stopped grinning if she'd wanted to as her eyes slipped over Janet's graceful curves. She was semi-dressed now, wearing jeans and Sam's button-down shirt, the bottom edge hanging loosely around her upper thighs. "Mmhm...." Blue eyes slid up to lock with dark brown. "Looks like you've been up for awhile," she murmured, amazed that Janet had the energy to be up and about when she was still so muzzy headed, every muscle throbbing with a satisfying post-coital ache.
Janet shook her head, padding forward until her knees were pressed against the foot of the bed. "Just a little while," she explained, wrapping her arms loosely around her torso. "I woke up and the room was cold...I figured a fire might feel good...and since Rosenberg had left one laid in the fireplace, it wasn't any great effort...." She shrugged. "I also took a moment and brought a couple of things in from the car."
Sam stiffened. "You aren't supposed to be lifting anything yet," she reminded the brunette.
Janet only laughed, waving the comment aside. "It was nothing heavy," she reassured Sam, then seeing that hadn't mollified the blond, she added, "Just some of the food." She laughed embarrassedly. "I just kind of...woke up...and wanted something to eat...." Another flustered laugh. "It's just that I...I just have this little...ah...well...you see, I get hungry...after...."
Sam couldn't hold back a laugh. "I see," she exhaled. "I think you're telling me that all that... um... physical activity... leaves you in need of a little energy boost...."
Janet shrugged slender shoulders. "Something like that," she allowed. Then she grinned broadly, white teeth glinting in the soft light as she leaned forward to brace her hands on the foot of the bed. "Mind you, I may have to start watching my diet...I have a funny feeling I'm going to be getting the urge for a lot more late night snacks with you around."
Sam slipped a leg out from under the thick comforter, stroking down Janet's arm with the bottom of her foot. "I guess you'll just have to get more exercise to burn off all those extra calories."
The doctor leaned forward another few degrees, her tone lilting as she questioned, "You think?"
"Mmm, definitely," Sam drawled and slipped her foot between Janet's braced arms, lightly caressing her upper chest with the very tips of her toes.
Janet appeared to consider the suggestion. "Of course, I could also switch to lower calorie snacks." She caught Sam's ankle, lifting her foot to press tiny kisses to the tip of each toe, then let go to crawl onto the bed, her hands braced on either side of stunningly long legs.
"Really?" Sam exhaled, suddenly finding it hard to breathe.
Janet nodded moving another few inches up the bed. "Mmhm...in fact I can even think of one or two things that are completely calorie free." She leaned down to nip Sam's bare knee, then lightly laved the spot with her tongue.
Sam's breath caught momentarily, shivers of awareness sliding over her skin. Amazing how fast one could wake up with the right motivation. "Only one or two?"
Stroking the length of Sam's outer thigh with one hand, Janet pressed tiny kisses to the complex flow of muscles just above her kneecap. "Maybe even three or four," she admitted. And then it was her turn to gasp as her lover hooked agile toes in the waistband of her jeans, tugging her forward another couple of inches.
"Maybe you could share some recipes," Sam invited, her gaze sliding boldly from Janet's lips, down to the soft curves visible in the deep vee of the shirt. Her voice trailed off into a moan as Janet leaned forward, pressing soft lips to the top of Sam's bared thigh.
"I could do that," the brunette whispered against silky soft skin, leaning heavily on one hand while she used the other to push the comforter out of the way. She caressed Sam's newly bared thigh with a gentle hand. "But I'm much better at demonstrating these things than explaining them...or, God forbid, writing them down."
"Demonstrate away," Sam gasped weakly, tiny sounds welling up from her chest as Janet took her at her word. Her breathing suddenly ragged, Sam heard herself whimper softly as silky lips climbed higher on her body, dusting butterfly soft kisses along the way, touching everywhere but where she most wanted them. Eyes glazed, she reached down, stroking silky hair, watching it move through her fingers, the glossy red highlights turned to molten lava by dancing firelight.
Janet's breath played over sensitive flesh. "My pleasure." Soft caresses flowed over satiny flesh until Sam's head slammed back into the pillow, her muscles taut, pleading moans slipping from her lips.
And then Sam's climax crested over her, tumbling her with the intensity of a tidal wave tossing her about until she collapsed into the mattress. Limp, her chest heaving, sweat gleaming on pale skin, she lay unmoving, eyes closed. "Dear God," she groaned, a tiny shiver sliding over her skin. "Who knew you were such a gourmet?"
"It's all in the ingredients," Janet drawled, sliding up Sam's body and leaving a trail of soft kisses along the way. She darted her tongue into Sam's navel, then gently washed an outline of banded abdominal muscles before dancing higher, pressing her lips between the swell of rounded breasts. Finally, she slid up to peer down into Sam's flushed face, hooking a leg over her thighs an arm across her midsection as she settled in comfortably.
Sam lifted a hand to the back of Janet's head, pulling her into an adoring kiss, the delicate taste of Janet's mouth, her own body, and something...sweeter...flowing across her tongue. As their lips parted, she peered up into velvet brown eyes. "Chocolate chip cookies," she murmured as she recognized the flavor. She offered a bleary grin. "Interesting combination of seasonings."
"Are you complaining?" the brunette questioned archly, a shiver sliding over her skin as Sam's hand dipped under her shirt and spread against the small of her back.
"I wouldn't dare," Sam denied instantly, then relaxed back into the mattress, a satiated smile curving her lips, her eyes peacefully closed. "However," she exhaled after a beat, sliding her hand down the faint rises and hollows of Janet's spine and under the waistband of her jeans, "it seems like we've only had the first course here."
"Really?" the doctor exhaled, pupils expanding until her eyes appeared black.
Her eyes still closed, her pose deceptively relaxed, Sam smiled. "Really," she confirmed. Her other hand found the front of Janet's jeans, easily popping the snap. Her smile broadened a notch as she tugged the zipper down and felt the woman in her arms shudder gently in time with the soft rasping sound.
Still sprawled half across Sam, Janet rested her cheek on her lover's chest, listening to the throbbing beat of her heart. "Well, I have to admit," she exhaled heavily, a tiny sound escaping her throat as Sam's hand eased inside the front of her jeans, "I wouldn't mind exploring the menu a little more."
Sam pressed a soft kiss to her lover's temple. "We can do that."
Janet's breath caught a short second later as agile fingers pressed deeper, the caresses soft and subtle within the tight confines of her jeans.
"You like that, don't you?" Sam demanded huskily and spread her fingers against Janet's pleasantly rounded backside, pinning the doctor's small frame between her exploring hands and controlling the slow, instinctive thrust of slim hips.
"You know I do," the brunette panted, rubbing her cheeks against Sam's breasts, then tenderly mouthing a taut peak.
Sam smiled. "You're right...I do."
Janet couldn't restrain a small cry, her body agonizingly aroused and trembling violently in Sam's hold. Making love to the blond had already worked her up to a fever pitch and now the steadily accelerating caresses were fast pushing her to the limit.
"Kiss me," Sam whispered, ducking her head to meet Janet's mouth as she tipped her chin upward. The first kiss was as soft and sweet as a summer rain as Sam sipped from Janet's lips, tasting and teasing before pressing deeper. She gloried in her lover's soft groans, drinking in the small sounds as her fingers stroked in syncopation with her tongue. "You feel good in my hands," she breathed as she broke the kiss, dragging her lips along Janet's cheek. "All hot and sleek ... and smooth as silk...." She thrust inside. "Clinging to my fingers ... like your body knows right where it wants to be touched."
Janet whimpered softly, her eyes tightly shut as she rode between Sam's hands, her fingers clawing into the sheets. "And by who," she moaned, nuzzling the sharp curve of her lover's jaw.
Sam chuckled softly. "That's right," she breathed, then abruptly pressed her lover onto her back, moving over her with controlled grace and thrusting a knee between her thighs. "It's time," she growled, gaining momentum as she took her the final distance, driving her passion higher with every stroke and kiss.
Janet clung tightly to Sam's shoulders, completely lost in sensations. And when she cried out with pleasure, Sam drank in the low sound with hungry desperation, needing to give her the same satisfaction she had experienced only minutes before.
Moments passed as hard shudders rippled through the brunette until, finally, she collapsed into the mattress like a marionette with its strings cut. "Dear God," she exhaled heavily, her tone one of rich wonder, "And you told me you couldn't cook."
Sam laughed softly, stealing another kiss from soft lips. "You bring out the best in me." She sank down, stretching out alongside her lover.
The doctor's head tipped down, a wry grin touching her lips. "I'm still completely dressed," she exhaled dazedly. She lifted a foot and waggled her toes. "I'm even wearing socks." She peered up at Sam. "I just made love while wearing socks, Sam," she said seriously. "I've never done that before."
"And yet you did it so well," Sam teased. She propped her head up on her hand to stare down at her lover, taking in soft features and gleaming skin.
Janet was amazed to find she could still blush. She reached up to outline full lips with the tip of her finger, flooded with emotion as she stared into bold blue eyes. This was so much more than mere sex that it was frightening.
"Penny for your thoughts," Sam whispered after a long moment.
Janet worked slim fingers into thick blonde hair, combing the silky strands back from her lover's face. "Just thinking about everything," she admitted, then offered a guileless smile as she noted a touch of nervousness in Sam's eyes. "Don't worry, they're nothing bad."
"Want to talk about it?"
Janet considered the question for a long moment. "I don't know...I feel a little like I've tumbled in over my head... don't quite know which way is up yet...." She sighed softly and closed her eyes. "And the last few hours have been...I just...I didn't expect...the intensity...the...." She shrugged helplessly, not knowing how to put what she was feeling into words. "The connection, I guess," she exhaled at last.
"Are you sorry?" Sam questioned.
Janet smiled and shook her head. "No...no regrets...." Dark eyes slid open, fastening on Sam with the sort of stare that could see through to the soul. "That much I'm sure of." She smiled affectionately. "I want to be with you."
Her worries banished, Sam returned the easy smile. "It's strange for me too," she admitted, her expression tender. She reached out to brush auburn bangs off Janet's forehead. "It's been so long since I've been serious about anyone...since there's been anyone I really wanted in my life." She rested her hand lightly on Janet's stomach. "And suddenly I'm..." she trailed off into silence, lacking the courage to finish the thought.
"Yeah," Janet sighed, understanding exactly what Sam wasn't saying. "Committed?" she offered after a beat.
"We probably should be," the blond deadpanned, and Janet laughed despite herself.
A long moment of silence followed as they both sank into their own thoughts.
"The thing is," Sam began at last, her words halting and uncertain. She kept smoothing her hand against Janet's belly, taking strength from that closeness, not quite knowing what she was going to say next. "This is serious...I'm...." She swallowed hard. "I think I'm falling in love with you," she exhaled at last, laying it all on the line, amazed that she'd actually gotten the words out when she couldn't remember the last time she'd said them. Or maybe she never had. Suddenly, she wasn't certain. It just wasn't a declaration that came easily or lightly to her lips. "Or maybe that's past tense...fallen in love with you." Her eyes dropped away, heart pounding so hard in her chest she was mildly amazed it hadn't escaped her ribcage yet.
"It's mutual," Janet murmured thoughtfully. Her lips turned up in a rueful smile. "You got in under the radar, Carter."
Sam released the breath she hadn't even been aware of holding. "I know that," she admitted after a beat, a little surprised by her own honesty. "Neither of us would be here if that wasn't the case...and we certainly wouldn't have..." she trailed off meaningfully. "...but...."
"Sometimes we all need to hear the words to make things real," Janet finished for her when Sam fell silent. She reached out to link hands with her lover as they lay silently for long moment, no longer caught in the fiery grip of arousal, instead content to simply be with each other.
It was Janet who broke the comfortable silence with a sudden, soft laugh. "And I'm still lying here...fully dressed." She wiggled sock-clad toes again to punctuate her point.
Sam chuckled, running her hand up Janet's chest to toy with the top button of her borrowed shirt. "Well, we could do something about that," she offered in a lilting tone.
"I am feeling a little over-dressed," Janet admitted, lips turning up in an irrepressible grin. She traced a fingertip down Sam's bare shoulder. "Especially considering the...uh...circumstances? Company? Situation? Occasion?" She seemed undecided about the right term and was just drawing breath to suggest several more when Sam laid a finger across her lips.
"My father always said one should dress appropriately for the activity at hand."
"In which case, I'm in dire trouble."
"That you are," Sam agreed and freed the top button of her lover's shirt. "But I think I can help you."
"You're sure?" Janet questioned while Sam's hand continued an ambling path down her chest, parting her shirtfront along the way.
Sam appeared to seriously consider the question before nodding. "Mmm, very sure...." As she finished opening the last button, she slipped her hand under the soft fabric, stroking Janet's stomach gently, then hooking her thumb inside her jeans. "I can even help you with these," she promised huskily.
"How did I get so lucky?"
Sam shrugged, already pushing the heavy fabric down over slim hips. "Clean living."
An auburn brow arched high on the doctor's forehead. "Really? I'd have guessed just the opposite."
"Which shows what you know." A moment later, Sam tossed the jeans aside and a second after that one sock and then a second followed, both flung aside with a flourish as she grinned at Janet. "Sock problem dealt with."
"I see that."
And then she came back down, cuddling Janet close, petting her hair and holding her tenderly. "That's why you need me around," she pointed out. She tugged the quilt up over their coiled bodies. "To point these things out."
"Ah, so that's the reason." Janet hooked an arm around Sam's waist, snuggling up against her side. "I knew there had to be something." Sleepy in the aftermath of their lovemaking, she settled her head on Sam's shoulder.
"That and one or two other things," Sam exhaled as she felt her own eyelids growing heavier, suddenly very happily exhausted.
"One or two...dozen," Janet sighed in a progressively softer voice until her low whisper trailed off into muted snores that were really little more than deep breathing.
Still smiling affectionately, Sam continued petting silky hair, enjoying the cool texture against her fingers. Her own eyes slid closed as she relaxed into a welcome lassitude and soon, her low breathing matched her lover's as she too slept.
* * * * * *
Sam shifted in bed, lifting her head as a soft rattling sound reached her ears. She reached under her shoulder, tugging a bright yellow candy wrapper free to ball it up and toss it into the fireplace, where it momentarily flared as it touched still hot coals. She suddenly became aware of dark eyes watching her and grinned. "We're out of peanut M&M's," she pointed out needlessly.
Janet reached under her hip, and a moment later, a dark brown wrapper followed the yellow one. "Plain too."
Sam chuckled. "Considering the dent we've already put in the stores, I don't think we brought enough chocolate for this little expedition."
"We passed a little general store a couple of miles down the main road when we drove in," Janet replied by way of answer.
"Is that a hint?"
"Who? Me? Hint? No," Janet assured her, but her eyes were sparkling merrily. "I just thought that at some point we're going to have to get out of this bed--"
"Who says?" Sam disagreed cheerfully and arched over Janet, her expression playful. Grinning, she ran a hand down the center of the smaller woman's chest.
Janet chuckled, eyeing Sam with raised brows. "All right, now I'm impressed," she exhaled. "Any worries I had about your health are officially over. If last night didn't kill you, nothing will."
"I think you were right in there with me, Doctor," the blond pointed out, wondering if she was ever going to get the silly smile off her face. Dawn sunlight spilled in through the bedroom window, illuminating both of them in dappled gold highlights and, as she leaned over Janet, her eyes went to the pale yellow bruise still marring her left shoulder. It had faded until it was nearly invisible, but in the bright morning light, she could still make out the faint outlines, reminding her that their lives weren't all fun and games.
Janet laughed. "Apparently I'm healthy too," she allowed, rolling toward Sam only to suddenly wince.
Sam was instantly all tender concern, her expression worried. "Oh God, your shoulder...are you okay? Does it hurt?" she asked all in one breath.
Janet reached up, checking her shoulder, but shook her head. "Actually, my shoulder's fine. It's the rest of me that's sore." She looked a little embarrassed. "I'm not in quite the physical condition that you are." She stretched, popping her back. "Though if we keep up this workout schedule, I may catch up pretty quickly."
Still worried, Sam reached out to brush fluttery bangs back from Janet's brow. "Are you sure? You just got the sling off. Maybe we should have--"
The doctor rested a light hand on her lover's chest, touched by her concern. "Sam, I'm fine...really...." She sat up slowly, stretching overworked muscles. "Just a little stiff."
Sam pushed upright. "You're sure?" she questioned again, and scooted behind Janet without waiting for her to answer.
Janet glanced back. "What are you....ohh...that's nice...." Her soft words turned to a soft groan as Sam began a slow massage meant to soothe worn muscles.
Sam leaned forward, almost resting her chin on Janet's shoulder as she murmured, "Backrubs were the only thing that got me through basicĖ"
"Not sure I like that comparison," Janet muttered, trailing off into another soft moan as Sam's hands hit a particularly tender spot. "Or the thought of who was giving them to you," she admitted in a burst of honesty, a frown darkening her brow.
"Is that jealousy I hear in your voice?" Sam demanded, surprised to feel flattered at the thought.
"Lie down," Sam instructed after a beat. "So we can do this right."
Janet glanced back over her shoulder. "Getting mighty pushy, don't you think?"
Sam grinned, eyes gleaming. She applied firm pressure to Janet's center back to urge her forward onto her stomach. "And you like it that way."
Janet folded her arms under her chin and stretched out with a soft, "Hrmph." But she didn't argue.
"Just relax and let me help." Sam smoothed her hands down Janet's bare back, then began kneading taut muscles. "It's good for you to let someone else look after you for once."
Janet considered pointing out that Sam had been taking excellent care of her so far, but discarded the idea in favor of going progressively more limp as talented hands worked their magic on her tired body. "If your job at the SGC doesn't pan out, you can always become a professional masseuse," she mumbled.
"Shhh," Sam hushed her. "Don't talk...just take it easy...in fact, don't even try to think...just rest." The words were softly spoken, the steady cadence of the major's voice almost hypnotic.
Deeply relaxed, her body sinking into the mattress, Janet trusted herself to her lover's care, letting her mind wander back over the span of their relationship, suddenly seeing in her mind's eye the progression from a work-based friendship to a romantic relationship. In hindsight, it was surprisingly easy to pick out the nuances she'd completely missed at the time; the easy camaraderie, the shared looks, the sense of bonding, the growing personal friendship when Cassandra entered their lives. It wasn't a straight line from point A to point B, but the path was there. She moaned softly as Sam's fingers kneaded a particularly sensitive spot.
"Was that a good groan or a bad groan?" Sam questioned as she leaned forward, her breath playing over Janet's upper back, while her hands stilled.
"A little of each... you're definitely getting the kinks out."
"Not all of them, I hope," Sam drawled, "I kinda like you a little kinky."
"You're incorrigible," Janet muttered under her breath. The way she said it, it wasn't an insult.
They bantered a little more, the teasing words flowing more slowly as Janet found herself slipping into an almost meditative state, her mind floating pleasantly.
And then it came to her. One of those lightening bolt realizations that she'd always been blessed--or cursed, depending on your point of view--with sliding through her. "Shit!" Janet exploded, pushing up on her hands, her movement so fast Sam had to rear back to avoid cracking her chin on the top of her lover's head.
But the doctor wasn't hearing her as she scrambled out of bed, berating herself angrily as she stalked into the livingroom, apparently careless of her nudity. "Goddammit, where's my cell phone?" she demanded of no one in particular as Sam hurried in a few steps behind her, wrapping the sheet around herself as an impromptu robe. She glanced up, noting Sam. "Do you remember, did I bring my cell in from the car?"
Sam stared at her blankly. "I-I don't know." She stared at her lover in confusion as she went digging through the things they'd already brought in. "What's going on?"
Janet looked up from the hamper she was digging through, her hands momentarily stilling. "I need to call General Hammond," she muttered by way of explanation, her thoughts obviously somewhere else.
Sam's eyebrows climbed skyward. "Why?" she questioned uncertainly.
Janet had gone back to sifting through their supplies by then, her attention on what she was doing. "I could have sworn it was--"
"Janet!" Sam said sharply, her tone utterly perplexed and just a little irritated. "What's going on?" she questioned, each word clearly spoken.
Janet's head tipped up as she suddenly focused on Sam. She took a deep breath, abruptly realizing she probably looked like an idiot. "I need to call General Hammond," she repeated, holding up her hand to forestall Sam when she drew breath to speak. "I just remembered something...." She slowed down, taking a deep breath, no longer caught in that first frenzy of realization, when she always had that sense that if she didn't get it out quickly, the knowledge would just quicksilver out of her brain. "I told you, I was in Data Storage at the same time as Barnes more than once--research, records retrieval, that sort of thing...." She suddenly realized she was standing there completely naked and feeling the cold and froze for a beat.
"Here." Sam tossed her discarded button down Janet's way, silently waiting while she tugged it on.
"Thanks...anyway...I think I may know how Barnes got those tapes past the security detail." She slapped the side of her head disgustedly. "It's been nagging at me...I just can't believe I didn't remember until now."
"Wait a minute...exactly what do you remember?"
Hands braced on the counter, Janet leaned forward ever so slightly. "I was doing some research. Barnes was there and--bluntly put--I was trying to avoid him--you know how he was...."
"I remember," Sam exhaled.
"Well, Colonel Samuels was there too."
"Go on," Sam prompted, interested now. Samuels had virtual run of the place as the liaison for the oversight committee. If he was in on something, it was no wonder the SGC had been compromised. "But the fact that he was there when Barnes was doesn't necessarily mean anything."
"Except that they were checking out at the same time." Janet closed her eyes, struggling to remember the details, less certain in the face of Sam's practical skepticism. Eyes still tightly shut, she described the scene replaying in her head. "Samuels briefcase had already been checked--I'm sure of it--when he and Barnes bumped into each other. The briefcase fell and snapped open...and Barnes bent down to help. When the guard tried to follow SOP and recheck the briefcase, Samuels threw a minor fit. Yelled at the guard for insinuating he was doing something wrong because he'd had an accident, threatened the poor guy's rank, the whole nine yards...the guard finally let him go without doing the recheck."
Sam tensed, gnawing thoughtfully on her lower lip for a long moment before speaking. "Are you sure...absolutely sure?"
Janet massaged her temple, mentally revisiting the scene. She'd been behind a monitor--probably more or less unnoticed by the arguing men and trying to stay that way--all while trying not to listen, but at the same time perversely fascinated. Ultimately, she'd simply filed it away as one more example of Samuels behaving like an ass, all but forgetting that Barnes had been there as well. "I'm sure," she exhaled after a long beat. "It was like the handoff in some old caper flick."
Sam considered her response for a long moment, weighing the probabilities. In an odd way, it did fit. As the one in charge of the investigation, Samuels would be in the unique position of being able to cover for himself. And having gotten the discs out of storage, it would be easy enough to hide them somewhere on the base, then open them up in his guest quarters. Once he'd made copies, they'd be worth a fortune on the black market.
Then another thought occurred to her; Barnes had probably intended to try and put the discs back so no one would ever know they'd even been missing; he just hadn't made the grade. If Samuels had been involved, he could have been moving materials in and out of storage for months. That was a scary thought. Finally, she nodded. "You should call him and tell him about it," she agreed, then qualified her answer, "It's probably nothing--security teams have gone over the tapes from the cameras on Data Storage...but...."
"But it's possible they just overlooked it because of who Samuels is...figured, 'Nah, that can't be,'" Janet suggested dryly.
Sam shrugged. "Could be...plus, you know as well as I do that those cameras don't cover every inch of the complex...it's possible it happened in a blind spot."
"And it's probably really nothing...just a completely innocent coincidence," Janet murmured as harsh reality intruded on her thoughts.
Sam shrugged. "Probably," she admitted. "But still...."
A few minutes later, Janet tossed her newly discovered cell phone back down with a disgusted growl, "Either Rosenberg lied, he's got a different service, or the system's down...but I can't get a dial tone."
Sam worked a hand through her hair, already grabbing to retrieve her scattered clothes. "You said there was a little store back a couple of miles?"
"Yeah...three, maybe four miles."
"Okay, they'll undoubtedly have a payphone. We can call from there."
Janet suddenly looked uncertain. "I don't sound too crazy, do I?"
Sam shook her head. "It's a little bit of a leap in logic, but not crazy by any means. Now, why don't you go ahead and get dressed. We'll get that call in."
The tiny general store was still closed when the two women got there, but there was a payphone on the front porch, and after a frustrating amount of time spent getting transferred through the various Cheyenne Mountain switchboards, then waiting on hold, General Hammond finally came on the line.
"Doctor," Hammond said, his tone friendly, "this is a surprise. I saw the notation on the duty roster that you and Major Carter are due to be out of town for the next few days." As ranking SGC personnel, both women were required to keep the base apprized of their whereabouts where possible.
Janet had a momentary moment of mild panic as she tried to decide if he was suspicious, but then she discarded the notion. That wasn't the general's style at all. "Ah...yes, sir...Cassie was due to be away on a school thing and I think after ... everything, we both felt like getting out of town for a couple of days. Rosenberg's got a cabin and didn't mind lending us the keys...but that's not why I'm calling," she added quickly, eyes meeting Sam's as the taller woman, hung over the edge of the half booth, listening in on their end of the conversation.
"I see...problem?" he questioned, hearing the stressed note in her voice.
"Not currently," she assured him quickly, and again met Sam's eyes, suddenly feeling mildly embarrassed. She'd probably gotten all worked up over nothing and was about to make a fool of herself to her CO. Yep, that was great for one's career. "It's just that I kind of remembered something this morning that I think you should know about ... it's probably nothing, but ... well ... I'm not going to feel comfortable until I let you know."
"Of course, Doctor. What's the problem?"
She laid it all out carefully, going over the points that she'd already hashed out with Sam, and answering the occasional question inserted into the discussion by her superior. When she finally finished, he was quiet for a long moment before finally speaking. "Can you give me an approximate date?"
She told him, then added, "You should also be able to find it in the sign-in sheets. It's the only time I can remember all three of us being there at the same time...I know it sounds crazy, but I just...I can't shake the feeling that there was more there than met the eye."
Hammond was silent for another long moment before requesting, "Doctor, could you put Major Carter on?"
"Yes, sir?" Sam said a moment later.
Her superior cut straight to the chase. "Opinion, Major?"
Sam sighed softly; a kind of verbal shrug. "It does sound like a long shot...and frankly, I question my own ability to be neutral on the subject all things considered--"
"And I don't like the man any better than you do," Hammond growled.
"Precisely," Sam muttered, confirming that maybe it was too tempting an idea. "But then again, nothing else has turned up...and it does seem rather...suspicious."
"That's what I'm thinking."
"Sir, with me on down-time, SG-1 doesn't have a lot to do...maybe they could check into it quietly--" If they were wrong about this and Samuels found out, she had visions of a nightmare campaign on the careers of anyone involved in the accusation.
"Avoid official channels," the general filled in dryly.
Sam winced, afraid he'd thought she meant something improper. "Sir, I just meant--"
"I know what you meant," her superior filled in, his soft Texas twang putting a dry spin on the comment. "And frankly I'm inclined to agree. If Samuels catches wind of this and hasn't done anything, Dr. Fraiser's career would be...."
"More or less over?" Sam filled in when he didn't immediately continue.
"He does have a rather vindictive nature...and if he is involved, it could give him a chance to cover up evidence."
"Do you need us to come in?" Sam questioned almost instantly. "We could be back in a couple of hours."
"No...not right now. Doctor Fraiser said her cell phone isn't working...."
"No, sir, she couldn't get a dial tone at the cabin."
Hammond cursed softly. He would have preferred to be able to get his people on the line at a moment's notice. On the other hand, both women had earned their break, and he was hesitant to bring them in for what was most-likely a wild goose chase. And, in some respects, he'd just as soon keep them out of it for the moment. "Stay there," he said at last. "But I want you to check in again tomorrow morning. Hopefully, that's not too difficult a proposition...."
"No, sir. There's a payphone just down the road. It's where we're calling from now."
"All right then. Check in tomorrow between eight and ten. I'll make sure the switchboard clears your call straight through to me. Maybe we'll have some information by then."
"Will do, sir." They said their goodbyes then, and Sam hung up. "We're supposed to check in tomorrow morning," she explained to Janet when she hung up. "But he says to take it easy. He'll have SG-1 look into it."
Janet winced in the aftermath of the call. "God, I hope I'm not committing careericide."
Sam understood her fears too well. Like it or not, the Air Force was a political outfit. She tried to avoid the games, but they did get played and pissing off the wrong person could do a lot of long-term damage. "I think that's probably one of the reasons he didn't particularly want you to come in. My guess is he figures he's got a better chance of keeping your name out of it if you aren't there."
Janet was silent for a long moment, then she flashed an impish grin. "Of course, you do realize that if Colonel Samuels is the guilty party, all of our lives could get considerably easier."
Sam chuckled softly and flashed an evil smile. "Don't think that hasn't occurred to me," she allowed, "And General Hammond was all but salivating at the thought." They shared a long look, then Sam glanced past Janet, raising an eyebrow as she noted, "Looks like the store's open...maybe we could replenish our chocolate supplies."
Janet swallowed hard, her mouth suddenly dry, the SGC and all of its attendant problems forgotten. "Sounds good to me," she croaked.
The blond waggled her brows, leering cheerfully. "I thought it might."
* * * * * *
"Okay," Daniel Jackson muttered as he inputted the proper access codes into the computer, and watched the security logs for the Data and Records Division open up. "What, exactly, are we looking for?"
"According to Hammond, the Doc said she was there at the same time as Barnes and Samuels...maybe a month, month-and-a-half ago. If we can find the exact date and time, then we can pull the tapes from the security cameras and see what happened."
"I fail to understand the significance," Teal'c murmured, his tone bland.
"She thinks they pulled an old-fashioned switcheroo," Jack responded, his eyes locked on the computer screen.
"Switcheroo?" the Jaffa repeated doubtfully.
Already shuffling through information, Daniel Jackson ignored their banter, his attention focused on the monitor as he scrolled down through the logs of who had come and gone in the secured section.
"Switcheroo," Jack repeated. "It's an old con-artist's trick--"
"Con-artist?" Teal'c repeated, once again bemused by the peculiarities of O'Neill's speech patterns.
"Uh...Confidence artist," Daniel explained without looking up, visions of Jack's version making things even worse dancing in his head. "That's someone who steals something by trickery...by getting people's confidence or fooling them into giving him what he wants,"
"I see...but I fail to see the connection...the guard did not give Colonel Samuels anything."
"He gave him a pass...let him go...Samuels may have pulled the oldest trick in the book and got away with it," Jack added, then seeing Teal'c's blank look, tried to clarify the situation. "She thinks that after Samuels had his briefcase checked, he intentionally dropped it so it opened...Barnes...who hadn't had his things checked yet helps pick it up...and while he's doing it, he drops the optical discs into Samuel's briefcase with the dropped papers and snaps it shut--"
"While Samuels blusters and reams the security officer who wants to recheck the case," Daniel finished for Jack before adding, "And then when the guard backs down, walks out with the discs, no one any the wiser."
A dark eyebrow lifted and Teal'c inclined his head ever so slightly. "I see."
"Well, let's just hope that Dr. Fraiser's right," Daniel muttered, still scrolling through the data in front of him. Suddenly, he straightened in his seat. "This could be it," he said to get Jack's attention as he expanded the screen to reveal more information. "Here we go...they all signed in...and Samuels and Barnes signed out about the same time...Fraiser left about an hour later."
"Bingo," Jack muttered.
"Okay, that'll be tape twenty-two-sixteen-oh-five." Daniel jotted the idea number, then began entering a new set of parameters into the computer. "Now, let's see if Barnes was ever there at the same time as Samuels when Fraiser wasn't there." A moment later, he smiled grimly. "We've got two more overlapping visits to Data Storage within two weeks of that one." He wrote down the accompanying ID numbers.
"Okay, am I the only one thinkin' the doc' may have hit a homer?" O'Neill questioned as he stared at the information on the screen.
"It does seem awfully coincidental," Daniel allowed, frowning at the screen.
"I think it's time we get down to security and take a look at those tapes. And while you're at it, Daniel, grab a listing of any time Samuels was in records. We'll just check them all."
* * * * * *
Captain Kevin Blanchard adjusted the image on his laptop, sharpening the muddy images playing there as he cycled through the security cameras in the Cheyenne Mountain complex. Behind him, his superior looked on approvingly, a hint of triumphant smile curving narrow lips. The link was completely illegal, not merely obtained against all security protocols, but broadcast over open phone lines in order for Blanchard to be able to pick it up in Samuels guest quarters at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. Merely having installed the small device responsible for the diverted signals was a court martiallable offense. Actually accessing them would get them both time in Levenworth if it was ever found out.
"The image is surprisingly clear," Samuels said softly.
Blanchard glanced back at the man, noting his triumphant smirk; not a trace of nervousness anywhere in evidence. Not that his superior cared about the possible threat to his career. He was obviously confident he could handle it. And he was determined -- obsessed one might say-- with taking Hammond and the SGC down; more than willing to break a few rules if he thought he could get the evidence he needed to finish off what the scandal had already started. "Yes, sir. Very surprising considering we're transferring the data over an analog line." He turned back and continued cycling through the different views, noting each with distant practicality.
"Wait a minute," his superior said suddenly as an image flashed by onscreen. "Back up. That's SG-1...what the hell are they doing?"
Blanchard frowned ever so slightly, glancing at the camera location listed along the bottom edge of the readout. "Since they're in the tape archive...looking at security tapes, I assume."
"Turn up the sound," Samuels instructed, a frown darkening his expression.
A second later, low voices echoed through the small room.
The three SG-1 members were together in the archives where the security tapes were normally stored until they were recycled--though with the current investigation, all possibly relevant tapes were being kept for the forseeable future-- hunched around a viewscreen while Jackson ran the system. Blanchard leaned forward, studying the image carefully, as he turned up the volume, listening in with a careful ear.
"Can you sharpen that image up at all?" O'Neill demanded. "I want to see that son-of-a-bitch Samuels take the handoff."
Blanchard heard his superior's startled gasp. "What the hell...."
"Sorry...this is what we're stuck with. Computer enhancements might help, but that's nothing that can be done here. The specialists would have to take a look," Daniel Jackson replied.
"Dammit, you'd think the government could afford something better than the same security cameras they have at the local Seven/Eleven."
"Indeed, the image is poor." Teal'c said. "But there is clearly a confrontation...and it appears to occur as Doctor Fraiser described."
"Turn it up more," Samuels hissed, and Blanchard quickly complied.
"Yeah...but you can't see the handoff...just the players...hell this thing's so blurry, it could be any one of the three of them," O'Neill complained. "Are there any other angles that might cover what we want?"
Daniel looked down at the log sheets. "I don't think so, Jack. The only one we might try is in the hall."
"But Doctor Fraiser witnessed the..." Teal'c paused, considering his words before choosing to use O'Neill's slang, "'handoff.' Will that not be sufficient proof?"
"Depends on what we find on the other tapes...but from this angle, you never see the briefcase. Could be Samuels or his aid carrying it," O'Neill muttered. "Besides, Samuels has some pretty powerful political supporters and according to Hammond, she didn't see much. If it's just her word against his...no hard proof...that could get rough."
"Oh, you bet it could," the man in question growled under his breath. "You and that bitch want to try and accuse me of this, O'Neill, you'd better be ready to play with the big boys."
Jackson gnawed thoughtfully on his pen, then spoke up, "I hate to mention this, but it occurs to me that if Samuels were to find out about this investigation..." he trailed off meaningfully.
"Doctor Fraiser's life could be in considerable danger," Teal'c filled in.
Blanchard had gone totally silent, simply watching the scene playing out on the laptop screen.
Jack nodded. "She's safe enough for the moment...she and Sam are up at Rosenberg's cabin for a couple of days. That should keep her out of any line of fire while we figure out what's going on."
"Indeed," Teal'c said very softly, "Major Carter would not allow anything to happen to Doctor Fraiser."
"Of course she wouldn't," O'Neill agreed distantly, his attention still fully focused on the screen, though Daniel momentarily flashed a quizzical glance in the Jaffa's direction before he was distracted by another of Jack's requests.
None of them guessed they had an audience. Or just how serious things were to get in the next hours.
* * * * * *